Did I mention that it is a magical place, Santa Teresa? And part of its magic comes from the allure of riding the waves of its pristine beaches. We wanted to experience just a little bit of Santa Teresa’s surfing culture and being that we were a group of 6 inexperienced surfing parents with 8 inexperienced surfing children, we thought it best to start off our surfing adventure with a lesson. Continue reading
Summer Family Adventure Part 2
It was on our way from Ruth’s to Jackson that we decided we would break up the trip and stop at Yellowstone Under Canvas. We were kind of skeptical about this whole set up, but also curious so we decided to give it a shot. It is essentially a camp of safari tents and teepees along the Madison River near West Yellowstone. The setting is magical and the only thing that would have made it better was if we were totally alone, but then we would not have benefited from the teepee bathroom with which it came. I have never been to Africa on safari, but I imagined that these accommodations might be similar and Earnest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro kept coming to mind.
It was a simple day of swimming in the river, playing board games, not a lot of sibling infighting and minimal whining. It was kind of like heaven really. Just us being a family without any outside stress to mess it up. No agenda, no plan, no schedule and it just worked. It topped off my cowgirl morning so perfectly that it was absolutely my most favorite day of summer 2014.
The kids tried to claim our bed upon arrival.
Rinsing off the river in the teepee shower.
I was kind of sad to leave this unique setting, but Jackson here we come.
The Tetons. I have been graced by their presence so many times, but they still take my breath away. I always imagine being a Native American living amongst the wildness of it all trying not to get eaten by a grizzly while fishing for my dinner. The peaks of the Tetons resemble a child like drawing of a mountain range very specific and annunciated among the rolling landscape. When they come into view they always remind me to focus on the big stuff and let the small stuff float away and while making me feel lucky that I get to be inspired by their beauty.
The Idaho side of the Tetons.
Our plan was to camp with Darren’s best bud from high school and his wife. The first night we spent in Grand Teton National Park. I could not figure out why people were not standing in line for these campsites. This was our view.
Morning at Camp in Grand Teton National Park. My big girl clearly needs a big girl chair. We used it not too long ago and it was not until this trip that it was clear she no longer fit in the little kid camp chair.
Buffalo in Grand Teton National Park.
Top of Rendezvous Mountain. We road the tram to the top.
The next two nights we spent at Teton-Bridger National Forrest. It was so lovely and off the beaten path.
Our lovely friends that put up with our family chaos and showed us the ropes.
Bacon on the Wilson Grill.
Our departure on a rainy morning. There is nothing more soggy than breaking down camp in the rain.
Summer Road Trip Part 1
There is something about Montana. The sky just feels bigger and that is saying something because I am from Colorado, which boasts a pretty huge sky. We finally reached I-90 and headed west towards my dear friend Ruth. She has been my friend since I was sixteen. Back then we both lived in Chester County, PA. She shared with me her wisdom of the world and I babysat her son. We have both managed to move west, a little farther apart than I would like, but still only a days drive. She lives on a ranch in Southwest Montana, a magical place that is alive with a love of the land, the critters that call it home and the energy of Ruth who, at almost 70, can still maneuver a pasture gate from the seat of her horse. We have not seen each other in a few years and for several months Darren and I have been talking about laying eyes on her. So we made it happen.
Reuniting with old friends is one of the greatest things in life I think. It’s a reminder that there are few things more valuable than a friend who loves you through the years and life’s changes. Geography makes no difference and you can pick up right where you left off with a little catch up and fill in the blanks while on the back of a horse or over wine on the porch. We did just that. She got to know my kids again (3 years older) and I got filled in on all the beautiful people in her life. We spent 2.5 days chillin’, making meals, grooming horses, riding horses, collecting eggs, playing with Bull and Crew and swimming and fishing in the river. And in the last hour of our visit something totally perfect happened…
…the cows got out. Three babes escaped the fence line.
As I packed our bags to load in the car, I heard Ruth yelling to get the horses ready. Now I know they did not need me for this little round up, but they indulged me nonetheless. I was in shorts and flip flops ready to jump into the car for part two of our summer family adventure, when Ruth yelled, “Leenie, get on your jeans. You’re gettin on a horse!” Darren was busy getting things ready to hook up the camper and said, “Go have fun, I will take care of this.” Oh how I love him.
I arrived in the barn smartly dressed in my running shoes and skinny jeans (FYI to non horse people – not the perfect outfit for herding cows) and Ruth handed me her personal cowgirl hat and her horse ready to go. Tami, Ruth’s friend and right hand, guided me out to round up the three little cows that were going to top off what had been an already fantastic visit with a little dream come true for me. You see, I spent most of my childhood on the backs of horses. I have managed to experience a lot but never moving cattle and never in Montana. There I was atop a skilled cow horse, complete with appropriate hat (which distracted from my sneakers) in Montana rounding up cows.
Darren chased me with the camera and I was beginning to wonder if Ruth, always being an exceptional host, had let the cows out for my benefit and photo op. I didn’t really care though as I cantered down the field to heard these babies because you have to start somewhere.
As we latched the gate behind the happy babies whose mothers stopped whining, Ruth smiled knowing that those few minutes on the back of her horse taking instruction from Tami where a total thrill for me.
It could not have been a better ending to my reunion with my dear friend. We left each other knowing that now that the kids were bigger the time between visits would be shorter. Darren and I both drove away vowing that, when seventy, we would have Ruth’s same energy and love of life. xo
Spring skies unleashed with decisiveness, pelting the earth with rain and hail. Spring turned to summer and it hailed again. Somehow our garden has survived.
We are in the heart of summer when the priorities are swimming, hiking, impromptu barbecues and less routine. We are settling in to our new space physically and mentally. There are STILL boxes and blank walls and rooms in transition. If I let it, it could send me over the edge, but I don’t care (mostly). I am happy with the prospect of our life in this house and thoroughly enjoying the now. For the first time ever in our 20 years of togetherness, Darren and I are in sync about a house and know that we will be here for a long time. We are spending our days in the yard. We are constantly weeding what feels like Jurassic Park and we play with the chickens.
Ella helped me plan and plant the garden this year. She dug in, suggesting veggies and herbs that she wanted and liked. We took trips to the nursery together and she stuck out the majority of the project. In past years both girls start out enthusiastic and dessert me at some point in the process for friends or play. This year was different for Ella and it connected us like nothing else has in a long time. We are always connected by the fact that she needs me. For the first time in a while, I feel her happiness in just being with me in the garden. It feels good.
Darren has been working a lot. He is putting in his time so we can take off on a road trip at the end of the month. Yesterday, he had off for the holiday and we got out of dodge for a bit and escaped up the Poudre Canyon for a family hike. We rejected the 75 requests to invite a friend or meet up with a friends and got away alone as a unit – just for a few hours.
Liam hiked like a big kid for the first time. I carried the empty kid carrier on my back and resisted the urge to hurry him along as he bent over every few feet to pick up a “golden rock” or observe one of the hundreds of little butterflies that were out and about. We didn’t make it very far. Darren and I exchanged knowing looks that communicated what we were both thinking. What happened to our days of power hiking? Isn’t it funny that we are here together almost 20 years later together and we are responsible for these three little lives? They are so painfully slow.
Lots of drama ensued after Liam fell backward off a little footbridge into an icy cold stream completely drenching himself. We made our way back as the storm clouds thickened and hoped our night of fireworks would not be wiped out by the weather.
We lucked out.
As I sat watched the short, beautiful display, I was thankful. I was thankful for freedom and family and friends. I was thankful for the now and my place in this world. I delighted in Liam’s shrieks, “That one was my favorite! That one was so awesome! ” He did not stop shouting about how cool it was the whole time and Darren and I looked at each other and smiled.
Juliet and her bestie, Charlie brightened up my afternoon with a little lunchtime theater. Charlie is always the lead, Jules is content to be the back up and Ella is the director, very at home behind the scenes delivering orders to her younger counterparts. Liam is still trying to find his place in this game. He hasn’t figured out his role yet, but he will.
Summer takes my job to the maximum and I am savoring it. I am a dictator, a democratic leader and a peacekeeper. I am a housekeeper, a cook and a chauffeur. I am a teacher, a coach and cheerleader. I am a personal shopper, a financier and a vacation planner. I am friend, an enemy and a negotiator. And, after 5 PM, I might be savoring our summer moments with a Moscow Mule or a glass of wine in my hand because we all need a little help multitasking.
Yesterday we arrived at home from a six day road trip to Utah. I was reminded instantly by the request for Saturday morning media that we were no longer powered by propane in the Utah desert where the early requests consisted of warm snuggles in the sleeping bag followed by the assistance in building a campfire to escape the morning cold.
Camping for our family takes the good moments from real life and neatly tucks them in to a beautifully wrapped package just begging to be unwrapped, savored, a gift to behold. Of course, there are the hard moments too. These are accentuated by the absence of modern shelter, amenities and extremely tired children who, when presented with the opportunity of being outside with their friends nonstop for days, do not know when to turn it off, sit back and chill. There is always the next adventure to be had, a rock to be scaled, a fire to be built and a campfire story to be performed.
There was that 50 mile and hour wind day when four families were trapped in our pop up except for some of the Dad’s who we thought may have been blown off a desert rim while conquering a must do mountain bike ride. Nik was the exception. He stayed behind and thankfully makes good conversation and the perfect margarita. They got us through – Nik and the margaritas.
Living out of our comfort zone for a few days taps the extremes. It takes the good and bad to their maximum and sometimes the beautifully wrapped package is hurled into the mud. It’s a matter of finding the balance and the place that allows me to accept the snot mixed with dirt topped off with sticky marshmallow.
The place were food tasted better, the fire felt warmer, the wind blew windier and the stars appeared more abundant. Tired is an understatement and when my head hit the pillow it was almost cathartic. Nature was ever present. Coyotes called in the night. The March full moon rising over the La Sal mountains lit up our sky and turned it into something magical. Sometimes I would stop and inhale the moment to make sure that when later arrived it was there right with me. I got to this place a few times and left the snotty marshmallow in the dust along the trail.
The first day of spring highlighted the inevitable changes ahead. Our trip was coming to an end and stress started to churn in my belly. I haven’t heard from the accountant. We are moving house in less than a month. We need a packing schedule. Would my old pets come out of this move unscathed? How are we going to afford to make this house comfortable? Darren inquired a few times on our last day.
What’s wrong? You don’t seem right.
Honestly, I was not in a self aware place and when he first asked I dismissed the question entirely. The second time, I used the excuse that I wasn’t feeling all that great, which I really wasn’t. On the drive home, I thought about my mood and the reentry into life and all the things ahead of us this spring. Why was I stressing? How is it that I can turn good things into ridiculious problems? All these things on the horizon that were stressing me out are actually amazing opportunities – products of this magnificent wave of goodness we are riding at the moment. A new house. A house that for the first time ever we chose without the urgency of simply needing shelter. So. I thought about these good things in my life. I have a trip to Napa to celebrate my littlest sister, Mary Susan, turning 40 and my biggest sister, Mary Sheila, turning 50 and, on the last day, I get to see my amazing friend, Wendi who lives in the area. Then we go camping again with all of the wonderful friends that I will, in a few short weeks, be privileged to call my neighbors. And then we move into the house that we chose, in a giving community, a hop skip and a scooter from the elementary school my kids attend. And, if we can’t afford to furnish it who cares? That’s not what a home is about anyway. It’s about the people and critters that call it home and I hit the jackpot there so life is good and BAM my perspective is different. It’s a start anyway. I am giving up creating problems where there are none for Lent because it is so silly to give up french fries again.
So as Liam asked to pee the sixth time in 3.5 hours on the road, I reminded myself to receive the request gently and I could tell Darren was trying hard too. He is a potty trained three year old boy who has a tiny little bladder. How is this a problem? React with grace. It’s so easy to remember and to forget.
After the first of seven loads of laundry hit the washer and the coolers were cleaned out, we sat down to dinner. Usually we talk about our favorite parts of the day. Last night, we talked about our favorite parts of the trip.
Ella: The giant sand hill and the campfire lit up by tumbleweed. It inspired the kids to dance around like cave people and chant iiiuuugggAAA!
Juliet: Running into her best friend from school and getting to make a purchase at the amazing Rock Shop.
Liam: Campfires and marshmallows
Darren: Hiking up the river in Hunter Canyon and defying death at Corona Arch
Leenie: Waking up and having coffee by the campfire with family and friends and our hike to Corona Arch
As I tucked each child away for the night, I was reminded that one of the best parts of going on an adventure is coming home. Tonight we will go through our dinnertime ritual again and our favorite parts of the day will be less adventurous and more ordinary – a play date, a board game, watching Star Wars with Dad.
I will cherish our stroll along the trial of ordinary over the next few weeks while we prepare for our move. Everyone is going to be ejected out of their comfort zone and it is my job to make sure that this next family adventure goes off without a hitch. Needs will be greater and emotions will run high. Gratitude will be at the center of my prefrontal cortex in hopes of warding off any problem-making creativity. I will remember the desert and that the best part of any adventure is coming home.
It’s so easy a ten year old can do it. We celebrated Ella’s double-digit birthday last week. She wanted a small sleep over with two of her besties. I thought about things that we could do for party fun now that they are 10. They are young enough not to be distracted by social media – thank god, but too old for traditional party games. So we settled on a craft with Ella’s owl obsession as the central theme.
Here is what we used for each owl:
4″ styrofoam ball
28 mm googly eyes
mini glue guns
3 different colors of felt rectangles (plus one piece of brown for beak and ears)
This template ( though we deviated for the feathers).
I used the instructions on this site, which was very useful and deviated when it came to cutting feathers to save time as I was cutting felt for the three girls and myself.
Tip: I cut out the felt prior to sitting down with them to create and glue. I also bought little glue guns ( I picked them up at Micheal’s for less than $5 a piece) for each girl. It saved me time and any discussion about who got to use the one and only glue gun.
1. Press your styrofoam ball against a flat surface to create a flat bottom. It will keep your little owl from rolling away.
2. Print out your template and cut out each piece. First, cut out the feathers. In the template the feather is #3, but this is where we did our own thing to save time. In total, you will need about 50 feathers per owl. To save time, we used a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut the feathers. We cut them into a diamond shape and made them about the same size as the template feather. It was much faster to use the rotary cutter rather then scissors. Some of the girls used two colors for the belly feathers and one color for the back feathers. Some used two for the back and two for the belly. It’s up to you to get creative.
3. Stagger and glue on the feathers on top of one another starting at the bottom of the ball and working your way up until you have almost reached the the top of the styrofoam ball. You don’t have to cover the ball entirely since there will be a cone shaped head covering (#5).
4. Cut out the felt for pieces #1, #2, and #5 from the template as well as the brown felt for #4, which will be the beak and the ears.
5. Glue the small eye piece #2 onto the large eye piece #1. Next glue on the googly eyes.
6. Glue one of the felt brown triangles (#4) for the beak directly to the ball and center it. Then pinch wide part of the last two brown triangles together at the base with some hot glue. You will have to decide where you want the ears before gluing on the eye pieces. Once you have decided, glue the ears to the ball and then glue on the eye pieces make sure everything is looking anatomically lined up for your round little owl.
7. Lastly, glue your cone shaped felt (#5) and center the tip of the cone shaped felt between the eyes making sure to cover up any bald spots not covered by your feathers.
This week Ella turned ten. I have been thinking about this double-digit milestone for a few months. She keeps growing taller and a few days ago, asked if she could read The Hunger Games. It makes me realize that in a few short years I will be the parent of a teenager. Then I stop and remind myself that she still plays make believe with her friends and sometimes can be found mothering a baby doll.
Some of the most significant memories of my Mother are of those years when my older sisters where teenagers. I remember seeing her struggle with parenting and even though I did not know all the details, I remember knowing that it was hard for her. As I transformed into a teenager myself she transformed into my unreasonable mother. I was now the center of my own universe.
When I was 21, I flew home from Colorado to spend Christmas with my family. It was on this visit that I realized my teenage self was morphing into a young adult. It felt good to hang out with my mother in this new chapter of my life. I found a new appreciation for her and I sensed she felt the same. As I packed to return back to school she started to cry. It caught me a little off guard because by this point she was used to seeing me come and go and our good byes usually resembled those of two people parting for the weekend.
Why are you crying? I asked. We are going to see each other again in May.
I just hate saying good-bye to my children, she said.
May is right around the corner, I said.
My mother was experienced with the comings and goings of her grown children. On prior visits she couldn’t wait to see us, but then sometimes I think by the end she couldn’t wait for us to leave. I like to think this visit was different. We liked each other again and I had arrived as an adult.
Maybe she knew that we were not going to see each other again. Maybe a part of her knew that this would be it. She died that March.
As I count backwards on my first ten years as parent of young children and contemplate my future with teenage girls, I wonder what it would be like to mother with my own mother at my side. I miss the advice she would deliver, the advice I would heed and reject, the stories of her own mother and the chance we missed to be friends again beyond that one Christmas visit. She gave me the best and worst parts of myself and for that I am grateful.
She is still with me, though mostly in the quiet of the night when I am reflecting on the defeats and triumphs of the day. She is in the deepest parts of my soul and sometimes it is her voice that escapes my lips. Each day on this journey as a parent more is revealed to me about my mother even though she is not here to answer the questions, give me advice or defend her choices. I judge less and understand more. She is my mother, totally flawed and perfect at the same time. She made a path for me as her mother did for her.
As I close out a decade of being a parent, I realize that now more than ever I am contributing to the path that the mothers before me created. I am shaping and planting and trying to make a beautiful foundation for my girls. I want to skip more and trudge less. I want there to be laughter and grace, but mostly I want to pass on the love that I still feel from my mother 20 years after her death.